Monday, February 19, 2007

This is now. That was then.

This article recounts what happened in 1996 to what is probably the most valuable archeological site in the world for many years now out of bounds to archeologists.

[T]he Waqf [the Islamic authority of Jerusalem, to which Israel gave authority over Temple Mount after the '67 war] has a nice, simple policy regarding archaeological digs on the Mount. Don't bother applying; none are allowed. The world's most important archaeological site is off-limits to archaeology.

The Waqf is supposed to respect the status quo and ask Israeli approval before making changes. In 1996, the Israeli government approved a Muslim request to build a large new underground mosque on the Mount. Construction began, and a request to build an "emergency exit" for the new mosque followed, and was also approved.

Enormous excavations were carried out. Thousands of tons of soil and fill were scooped out and trucked away... And trashed. Hundreds of truckloads were unloaded in municipal garbage dumps. Some drops were made late at night. This was vandalism on a breathtaking scale, and the vandals knew it.

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